Vail’s Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café goes far beyond ice cream |

Vail’s Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café goes far beyond ice cream

An affogato is made with freshly brewed espresso and ice cream.
Dominique Taylor/EAT Magazine

Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café in Vail offers more than just ice cream; it is a unique dessert shop, inspired by European cafés, that tempts the tastebuds with both freshly baked goods and a premium coffee bar.

Owner Ric Almas is one of the originators of Häagen-Dazs franchises. He and his brother opened the first Häagen-Dazs store in Florida, right across from University of Miami, in 1978 after tasting the rich, premium ice cream in New York. They have since opened stores throughout Florida, Arizona and Colorado, while expanding the menu beyond just ice cream. In 1992, Almas introduced the Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café to Vail, because he loves the town’s atmosphere, community and ambiance. He now splits his time between Vail and Miami, ensuring the kind of friendly, welcoming and personal service for which both European cafés and the luxurious brand of Häagen-Dazs are known.

Fresh hot empanadas are popular, especially with an espresso.
Dominique Taylor/EAT Magazine

“Häagen-Dazs invented super-premium ice cream,” Almas said, explaining how the thick, rich ice cream was the strongest ever made because it didn’t use fillers and a bunch of air for volume, like many other ice creams, and it features natural ingredients; most of its flavors only have about five ingredients. “Häagen-Dazs has been a Vail staple for over 30 years serving super-premium ice cream, along with its coffee bar and fresh baked goods, including cinnamon rolls, butter croissants and assorted empanadas.”

The dessert and coffee café concept, which Almas has so successfully added onto his franchise, is a standout within the 225 Häagen-Dazs stores nationwide.

“It’s a unique experience with the dessert café,” he said.

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Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café in Lionshead offers espressos, as well as affogato, a rich espresso paired with any flavor of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, wedged on the side of the cup.

“The espresso is not poured over the ice cream; you can take a spoonful, then if you want, you can spoon more into the espresso. It’s just so unique, especially with the best-tasting ice cream made,” he said. “The variety of flavors, from vanilla and dulce de leche, to the special flavor of Irish cream brownie, adds to the taste of the rich espresso.”

The dessert café also generously gives out free coffee or hot tea with any baked good purchase. Empanadas, which it began offering three winters ago, are some of the best sellers.

“People just love it after coming off the mountain to fill in before dinner. In the morning, they love to order five at a time for later in the day,” he said.

Located on the way to Eagle Bahn Gondola, Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café opens every morning to rev you up with specialty coffees, and the menu includes energy drinks, Gatorade and breakfast smoothies, in addition to hot chocolate, baked goods and ice cream, gelato and sorbet. “Everyone knows Häagen-Dazs for its ice cream, but it’s unique with what I created,” he said. “It breaks the franchise mentality and follows the way dessert cafes in Europe are done, with premium coffee bars and fresh baked goods.”

Häagen-Dazs Dessert Café

Where: 675 E. Lionshead Circle, on the way to the gondola

Call: 970-476-1441

Price: Starts at $3

Ambiance: European dessert café

Signature dishes: Premium ice cream, rich espresso, baked empanadas


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